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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Game's Afoot

I got a surprise phone call yesterday...from David Hartwell, senior editor at Tor Books. Tor and my agent have been negotiating on my novel Eternity Shift, but I never count a book sold until I hear that the contract is in the mail. :-) Still, here was David wanting to talk to me about editing. I know David, have talked to him at a number of conventions, mostly about his young kids or my kids, or what have you. But suddenly...we are now Editor and Writer. That is such an interesting and unique relationship. I must say that book editors do seem ...in my experience...to be more involved in the story, but then they are dealing with much larger works. And I had sort of forgotten that first start of feeling each other out a bit as writer and new editor...how much are you willing to change, how hard with you fight me if I ask you to do things differently? and on my part...are you going to try and tell me what to do, or are you willing to hear my reasons and be willing to compromise? I have learned a lot from some editors, not much from others, but the good ones are worth rubies and have helped make me a better writer.

So the outcome of our phone call? David had three major points to make...there will be a host of little issues, of course. One didn't surprise me. Will I ever listen to my 'hind brain' every time it whispers in my ear? Probably not, although I listen a whole lot more than I used to. But the other point caught me flat footed. Yeah, I had created a particular character situation because I needed to, but I was focusing on other issues. David pointed out...quite rightly...that I had missed what was potentially a very powerful character conflict...had simply not dealt with it. He was right. And he was willing to hear me when I gave him my reasons for a particular name he had problems with.

I think this relationship is going to work well for both of us. I think this may be one of those editors I learn from. :-)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Waiting For the Aha Moment

One of the things I've learned over the years...the hard way, mostly...is to trust my hindbrain. When it tells me that a story really isn't done yet...it's usually right. I wrote a near future SF novelette, set in my 'information universe', the same one that Search Engine, (to appear in Analog) is set in. And it has been sitting on my hard drive since December. Bugging me. Really bugging me. Because I know it's not there yet and darned if I could figure out why.

I just have to wait while my right brain sorts things out. And I think I've figured out the reason it's not working...to much setting info and not enough plot...now I just need to wait for the 'aha' moment when I figure out just HOW to up the plot factor. I need something...still not sure just what it is, but I have this pressing feeling that I'm about to think of it....sort of like it's at the back of my brain, trying to squeeze into the consciousness.

So hey, for those of you who think that you can't write a story unless the muse pours it ready-to-fly into your head, think again! For example, I just got an invite from a YA fantasy anthology. That one is going to be crafted from whole cloth. I need this type of story, now I'll sit down and find a good story idea that fits. :-) I have never been one to sit on my hands and wait until I get presented with stuff.

Well, I'll let you know when I have my 'aha' moment for that plot device.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The edge of the revision pool

I often find that my writing reminds me of swimming...when I'd stand on the edge of that pool, knowing that once I got in and warmed up, I'd have a ball in the water. I've always wanted to be a mer creature. But there was that first cold shock of jumping in... Starting a new piece or contemplating revision, I can feel that rough concrete under my toes and smell chlorine. I know I'll love it once I'm warmed up and swimming, but there's that leap into that cold water!

Well, I leaped today into Backtrack my sequel to Find It, the tracking dog mystery that made the readers poll top ten for Ellery Queen last year. Got my first draft back from my seventy plus year old reader who has a very sharp eye for plot holes. Was planning to play outside, but the Writing Gods decided I needed to do the revision so sent steady rain my way. And of course, once I did the plunge, I tore off happily through my favorite element, that word sea, and have finally come up for air. Mystery short stories are hard. In a novel, you can weave subplots to hide your main-plot clues so that your reader is taken by surprise at your end. In short form, those clues won't have nearly as much camoflage! They lie there in plain sight, so you have to use a lot more sleight of hand to hide them. And Jane, my reader, did indeed snatch some of them up and shake them in my face. I'm ever hopeful in mystery...leaving those clues lying around on the off chance my readers really won't see them. Of course they do, and of course I then have to fix them. I really NEED my mystery readers!

But the revision is done, in blue ink traceries all over the pages. Now I just have to translate back to electronic...that's one more polishing revision as I go. Then it's ready to send out.

Meanwhile, DJ, my three year old rott, grumbles at the Hairy Woodpecker pair who are eating all the suet in the feeder. I may not let him eat it, but he sees no reason why I should waste it on big birds!

Friday, April 22, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

From the Editor's Desk

Hi, Jean! Welcome to blogging and it's so cool that we'll get news fro the 'inside' at Wax Romantic!

Mary Rosenblum
(writer and editor)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dog Day: Well it was one of those. I started learning how to work my dogs moving stock...useful because I share a 16 head sheep flock with my working buddy David, 75 years old. Was out at the ranch where a lot of folk teach and learn herding skills. And I wanted a ram lamb. David needs one and I figure I owe him one in trade for letting my dogs run the sheep around as they learn. :-) Lots of suburban folk bring their dogs in to play with sheep. Not many really end up with working dogs...they're just there to do something with their dogs. Outsiders. The folk who run the place ARE stock folk. So I collared Dave, the head stock man, to talk lambs. At first it was you and me with a barrier between... we're not the same tribe, lady. But I DO 'speak stock'. Done that for a long time. So we looked at lambs and I said the right thing about wide and topline, used the right vocabulary, and I watched his body language relax, watched him smile and mean it. 'You're one of us'. That's what it said.

And isn't that what we do when we create a character? My sons used to call me 'the chameleon' because I could 'speak the language' of most folk I met (well, the ones who spoke English anyhoo). And that's what we do when we create a realistic character...we speak that character's langauge to the reader and that makes the character real, whether it's 'old cowpoke', 'young punk', or 'timid virgin'. We speak the language as we form the character on the page.

So once again, my dogs have reminded me of what I do. They're good at that.

Getting Started

Well, I have been watching the blog explosion for some time, weighing the pros and cons of leaping into this particular river. I'm taking up writing time here....but why not sort out my creative ruminations in public? Writing is such a solitary craft and most of the time, only my dogs get to listen to the stream of consciousness stuff.

So why not?

Here goes.